The main differences between training for a career in law enforcement and one with a privately-owned security firm are a matter of formality. In order to pursue a career with a local, state or federal law enforcement agency, there is a requirement to attend, and graduate from, a law enforcement academy. These academies are operated by the individual departments or agencies for which potential recruits are competing, although there is some overlap among city and county law enforcement training programs, as they involve enforcement of the same set of laws, the differences being one of jurisdiction. At the federal level, various agencies, again, operate their own academies tailored to the unique missions of those agencies. For example, individuals hoping to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if accepted, are sent to the FBI’s academy in Quantico, Virginia, where they undergo a physically and mentally rigorous selection process, and during which they are indoctrinated with the sections of the United States Code for which that particular organization is responsible. Similarly, applicants for the U.S. Secret Service attend that agency’s academy in rural Maryland outside of the Washington, D.C. as well as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. The important point to remember is that these are government agencies, either city, county, state or federal, and they exist to enforce the laws of the jurisdictions they represent.
The situation with privately-owned security firms is very different. These are not law enforcement agencies and cannot, in general, affect arrests. It is a very murky environment, however, in that privately-owned firms can detain suspects when “deputized” to supplement law enforcement agencies. A real grey area involves bounty hunters, who are authorized to operate autonomously and to seize and transport individuals who have been released on bail by a judge but who have fled the jurisdiction in which their alleged crimes have been committed. With respect to training, however, there is no one answer to the question. Many employees of the larger private firms are former law enforcement officers, including FBI and Secret Service agents, who have either left the government to pursue more lucrative careers in the private sector or who are retired from their law enforcement careers and are now supplementing their pensions in the private sector. At smaller, locally-operated companies, many employees are retired or former law enforcement officers who supplement retirement pay by working as security guards or as investigators for law firms and private investigative companies. As such, these individuals are already well-trained at taxpayer expense and receive rudimentary supplemental training by the firms that hire them for the unique requirements associated with those firms.
Some of the large, well-known private security firms, for example, the company formerly known as Blackwater, then Xe, and currently called Academi, which was founded by a former Navy SEAL named Erik Prince, operate on the margins of legitimacy. This company, infamous for the excesses of some of its employees operating in Iraq following the U.S. invasion, operates its own training facility in North Carolina, where employees, many former military and law enforcement, are taught the skills they will need to perform work in very dangerous regions of the world, including acting as bodyguards for foreign and U.S. officials and providing security for supply convoys and for myriad other activities. It is important to keep in mind that these are privately-owned companies that are not authorized to enforce U.S. laws inside the United States, but are frequently hired by U.S. Government agencies to provide security for American officials and installations in highly-unstable venues.